The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used the Friday before Christmas to release official word that ICE was once again narrowing its definition of who it considers a dangerous individual.
This latest change involves the process of ICE detainers, a topic addressed routinely at Front Page Magazine. ICE detainers are holds, up to two business days, that ICE places on prisoners in municipal prison. These prisoners would otherwise be let go, but because ICE wants to detain them for immigration violations, they continue being held for ICE to pick them up and process them itself. According to a memo dated December 21, 2012, ICE changed its definition of priority to receive such a detainer to someone with three misdemeanor convictions, from one misdemeanor previously.
The pertinent portion of the memo states that “[t]hree or more prior misdemeanor convictions" not including minor traffic misdemeanors or other relatively minor misdemeanors unless the convictions "reflect a clear and continuing danger to others or disregard for the law." It should be noted that an individual still only needs to be suspected or convicted of any felony in order to warrant an ICE detainer.
This most recent memo augments policy from the most famous memo, now referred to as the Morton Memo, referring to the long-time Director of ICE, John Morton. In that memo, which was released on June 17, 2011, ICE directed all field agents to prioritize dangerous individuals, which the memo defined using an assortment of prior criminal activity. That memo only asked for one misdemeanor conviction. As such, simply being in the country illegally was no longer an ICE investigative priority.
From there, future directives required that a suspect be convicted of a crime before they were a priority for being held in detention. There are only 32,400 beds in all ICE facilities, even though there are roughly 300,000 individuals in the immigration system at any given time. This means that ICE can only hold about one in nine people that it puts in the system.
This directive led to Amado Espinoza-Ramirez, a suspected child molester, being released from ICE custody. Espinoza-Ramirez was moved from custody in Cook County to ICE when he made bond in September 2011. Because of an ICE detainer, Espinoza-Ramirez was transferred to ICE rather than being released. ICE decided not to hold him and released him with a tracking bracelet pending his next immigration hearing. Espinoza-Ramirez removed his tracking bracelet and skipped town instead of showing up for that hearing. He’s now considered a fugitive from justice by ICE.
This latest directive increased the number of misdemeanors to three before someone can even be the subject of an ICE detainer. The directive was an attempt to challenge the perception that ICE detainers were being used to arrest suspected illegal aliens stopped for traffic offenses.
“(The new directive) restricts the use of detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes," read the pertinent portion of the memo.
A number of municipalities, including Cook County in Illinois and Santa Clara County in California, passed local ordinances limiting, or totally eliminating, their cooperation with ICE detainers. These municipalities were motivated to act largely because of the perception that ICE was detaining far too many suspected illegal aliens whose initial offense was a traffic stop.
Luis Gutierrez, a Congressman from Illinois, championed the case of Gabino Sanchez. Sanchez, 27, was stopped for a traffic violation in Alabama in 2011. Sanchez came over to the United States in his youth when his mom crossed the border illegally. The stop in 2011 was the sixth time that Sanchez received a traffic violation. This time ICE flagged him upon arrest. Sanchez’s case is still making its way through the federal immigration court system. The new directive should pave the way for ICE to let such individuals go free.
It appears with this directive that President Obama has capitulated to demands of far left municipalities like Cook County and Santa Clara County. These localities screamed about perceived abuses and now it takes three misdemeanors before someone is considered dangerous. Meanwhile, it’s not at all clear that the counties will change their own policies of total non-compliance with ICE detainers back now that President Obama has done his impression of Neville Chamberlain.
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